Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'm a dud on New Year's Eve.

New Year's Eve was never a huge holiday for my family. We just hung out and watched a movie or played games to pass the time, counted down and went to bed. As siblings left the house, it was eventually just my mom and me staying up (with my dad curled up in bed starting at 8 p.m.). We usually wouldn't make it to midnight, and would groggily stumble to bed when we woke up around 1 a.m.

(Tangent)
My sister does the COOLEST thing for New Year's Eve, and I plan on doing it every year, as long as my kids want to stay up late. She covertly goes around and sets all the clocks forward a few hours (when it's early enough that no one will notice). Then, they all have a fake countdown at 9 or 10 p.m. and send the kids to bed. It's a win-win. The kids think they've stayed up late and celebrated, and the adults still get enough sleep that they aren't the walking dead the next day.
(End Tangent)

However, things could have gotten dicey when I got married. So many people have fun traditions, all of which involve lots of activity and no sleep, on New Year's Eve. Can I tell you how excited I was to find out that my wife grew up the exact same way I did? We may be party poopers, but we are well-rested party poopers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A little pick-me-up

I want one of these t-shirts from here:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Vocab Super Powers

When I was little, I always wanted to have a super power or two. I REALLY wanted to fly or teleport, but I would have settled for running fast or super strength or shooting fireballs out of my hands.

Imagine my disappointment when every birthday wish went unfulfilled. I even made sure not to tell anyone, in case that would jinx it. Still, no matter how many times I asked for some kind of ability, I woke up the next day depressingly normal.

However, looking back I might have had a super power and not even known about it. This is in addition to my other, previously exposed super power. Granted, it's nothing cool like you see in the comic books, but I had a HUGE vocabulary.

(Tangent)
I say "had" because I think after reaching my peak in childhood, I just coasted through high school and landed pretty much where everyone else is.
(End Tangent)

You want some evidence? You won't just take my claim at face value?

Here's an example from when I was 4 or 5 years old:

My mom and I were heading into church. She always said I should have been born with a briefcase, and I typically talked to the adults around me about as easily as the kids. We were just about to reach the outer door, and I turned to my mom and said, "Mom, did you bring your brush?" She was a little surprised, and replied, "I did. Why do you need it?" That's when I (dressed in my little blazer, white shirt and tie) put a hand to the back of my head and said, "I need to make an adjustment."

My mom loves this story because she says it's indicative of how often she thought I was quotable.

(Tangent)
Incidentally, needing to make an "adjustment" was all too common. I have three ... count them ... three cowlicks on the back of my head. Two of them are right next to each other, and until I discovered the miracles of gel and pomade, I'd get a pretty awesome Alfalfa going each day. It used to bug me terribly, and at one point I even took scissors and chopped off the whole offending section. All this did was make it worse until it could grow back out. Thankfully, my daughter only has one cowlick. I checked. I also checked for some of my other minor deformities, and I think she got away without any of them.
(End Tangent)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

No work this week ...

If only my vacation looked like this:



And not like this:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

How To Article of the Week

This week: How to Write an Ode About Math

Seriously? Who thinks this stuff up? Once they've thought of it, who has time to go make a WikiHow entry?

Click on the link if you dare.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Kwanzaa!

My freshman year of college, I had a friend. I know, shocking. I had A friend. She knew a kid in her hometown who would always say the name "Nathan" as "Nay Nay." She decided I should have the same name, but she wanted to add a little flavor to it and call me "Sha Nay Nay."

I thought this was fitting because this name conjured up images of a "sturdy" black woman in my mind. Since I was a scrawny white guy, I appreciated the irony.

For a while after that, every time I would see her, she would yell, "Sha NAY NAY!" and do a few of those finger snaps with attitude.

In December that year, I found the door to my dorm plastered with Happy Kwanzaa posters. So, I thought I would access my non-existent black heritage and wish everyone Happy Kwanzaa! If you'd like to find out more, click here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The White Envelope

When I was younger, my sister started a tradition with our family on Christmas Day. She realized there was usually a little bit of a letdown after all the presents were unwrapped.

As a result, she decided to have each family member write down on a sheet of paper an act of service that someone did for them and an act of service that they did for someone else that year and put it in a white envelope. At some point before Christmas morning, each family stuck the envelope in the branches of the tree. I wish I could say that the white envelope had some cool, symbolic meaning, but I think we started calling it the "white envelope" because it was just the easiest color of envelope to grab.



After the presents were all unwrapped, we would excuse any of the younger kids that didn't want to stay, and each family member would take their envelope from the tree and read or tell about both service opportunities. I was surprised at how pleasant this experience was, and it really set the mood for the rest of the day. It was a wonderful finale to all the gift giving, and it helped me see the kinds of things my siblings do on a regular basis to help those around them.

Unfortunately, after a few years of this, some of my siblings started complaining about the tradition. They said they felt uncomfortable sharing service they did because it felt like they were trying to show off. I was baffled by this, and I couldn't figure out why it would be a problem when they were simply sharing it with their other family members. These acts of service were particularly touching when they came from my mom. She loves to help everyone, but her recent health forces her to limit these efforts. This time of year, we are able to hear about some of the small things she has found she can do that still mean something to those she does them for.

As a result, the tradition has pretty much died in our family. However, being the stubborn person I am, I refuse to let it go. My wife and I like it, and wherever we spend Christmas (with her family or with mine), we warn everyone that we are going to continue with it. If they spend Christmas morning with us, they had better be prepared to share. Fortunately, everyone who has stayed for Christmas morning has been willing.

I'm excited to see what will come to my daughter's mind as she gets old enough to participate. It will be nice to show her that service is just another form of gift we can give. In many ways, it will mean more than anything we could have purchased.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'm not sick.

I'm not sick. I know, I know. I'm jinxing myself by saying so, but I'm a little excited. Every year, I would have had 2 colds and 1 flu by now, but I've somehow dodged all the bullets headed my way.

I'd like to say it's because of the steady donut and Christmas treat diet I've been getting at work, but I have a feeling that's not the case. Or maybe it's all the time I've spent NOT exercising. After all, I'm giving my body more energy to fight off the infections, right?

In any case, I have a slim hope that Christmas will arrive without congestion and frequent trips to the bathroom.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear ...

I don't know of anyone who could have played this character better than Will Ferrell. I think I'm too easily amused because I saw a part of this movie on TV the other night and laughed so hard I couldn't breathe. My wife almost thinks it's funnier to watch me instead of the movie.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I hate shopping

I really do hate shopping. Specifically clothes shopping. I learned a while ago, that given my current physique, I will never be able to just wander into a store and buy a pair of pants. They just don't make them in my size. If I don't want to look like I'm waiting for a flood, I have to buy 30x36. I defy any of you to find that size in ANY store. As it is, I have to go online and have them shipped. So, not only are they never on sale, but I also have to pay for them to be delivered.

I try not to feel all jealous when I hear about someone finding a pair of pants for $10 because there is nothing I would like more than cheap pants. Oh well. Some day, I'll have a gut, and maybe I'll finally be able to find my size in a big and tall store. Until then, I have Lands' End bookmarked as a favorite.

Do you think they'd have these in my size?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Walking Dead

A couple days ago, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to hear an intermittent beep from one of our smoke detectors. I stumbled out of bed and grabbed the last of our 9V batteries, hoping I could fix it before the noise woke my wife and/or my daughter. To make sure I was replacing the right one, I stood under the detector in the hallway, waiting for it to beep. I think the detector knew what time it was and wanted to mess with me. It was a full 5 minutes before it beeped again.

I ripped the thing out of the ceiling and replaced the battery, crossing my fingers my brain hadn't woken up enough to keep me from going back to bed. I got it back up in the ceiling and fell back into bed with a sigh. No sooner had my head hit the pillow than another smoke detector started beeping. We didn't have any more batteries, so I tried in vain to tune it out. That lasted about 2 seconds, and my brain started going through my day, thinking of all the things I needed to get done.

Bottom line: I was in the shower by 4:30 a.m. and felt like the walking dead all day.

I felt a bit like this (brace yourself for one swear word):

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How To Article of the Week

This week's article: How to Ride a Mechanical Bull

I don't think I will EVER need to know this information, but thanks to WikiHow covering all the bases, I've got this down just in case.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What was I thinking?

Truthfully, the title of this post could be the title for most on this blog.

(Tangent)
I had the perfect video clip idea to go with this post, but I couldn't find it anywhere. For those of you who have seen "Life with Mikey," I wanted to find a clip of the two audition scenes with the montage of kids singing "Spoon Full of Sugar" and "Zippity Doo Da" but had no luck.
(End Tangent)

When I was little, I had a best friend. She and I were almost next door neighbors, and we did everything together. It's not an understatement to say she was the brains of the operation.

One day, we got this crazy idea to put on a show. I, being the attention addict that I was, immediately volunteered my mad singing skills developed during our kindergarten choir and my talents as a piano prodigy from the 6 months of lessons I had under my belt. My friend volunteered to be the director. This meant she sat in the front row and pointed at me with a pencil.

Since the piano was in the basement, we made construction paper footprints leading from the front door. I’m sure my mom wondered what on earth we could be cooking up, but she didn’t say anything. We also packed the room with rows of chairs. We decided to alternate between piano songs and choir numbers (which I planned to sing while jumping up and down on the couch).

After a brief rehearsal, we hit the streets to sell tickets. We made fliers to post on all the local telephone poles announcing the event and then went door-to-door. We sold tickets for 25 cents each, and decided to use some expert sales techniques, offering a “Family Four” pass for a dollar. At that price, it was a steal!

Looking back, I’m surprised our neighbors were nice enough to buy tickets. I’m even more surprised that most of them showed up. When it came time for the show, we had a room full of people, and I played and sang my little heart out. Jumping on the couch was definitely NOT cut from the program, and was probably my favorite part since I wasn’t supposed to on a normal day.

I don’t remember how much we made, but I know we felt like millionaires. My friend definitely was the smart one, though, because she took away half the profits, and all she had to do was sit and watch me make a fool of myself.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Motivation

I saw this on Word to Your Mother.

This is just the kind of thing I need to get me through until my vacation at Christmas.

40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes

Wall of Shame

In my cubicle, I have a wall of shame. It's basically a collection of emails that showcase my mistakes. I guess I probably shouldn't have these on display, but oddly enough, these are fun to read for two reasons:
  1. It helps me learn from my mistakes. I can look up and think, "Oh, I remember when I did that. I have to make sure I do XYZ next time."
  2. It reminds me that no matter how bad my day is, it's probably not as bad as when I sent/received that email.

My coworker says I should rename it and, instead of the "Wall of Shame," call it the "Wall of Overcoming Self-Made Obstacles." He suggested I call it WoOSMO for short.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Dee Tiew" (Translation: "Thank You")

My daughter is in the gibberish talking stage. She's 1 year old, and talks our ears off (I wonder who she gets that from ...).

A couple of days ago, I was getting ready, and she couldn't get her desired blanket out from under a pile of laundry. Her first impulse was to start screaming for it, so I told her that's not how we ask for help (I know, falling on deaf ears, but I have to try). Oddly enough, she stopped and mumbled something incomprehensible, so I said, "That's right. I'll help you get it out."

After pulling it out for her, I heard a very distinct "Dee Tiew" over and over for about a minute.

If I was a real man, I wouldn't admit this, but I got a little choked up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tacky Christmas (Continued)

I couldn't resist posting this picture, since it ties in so well with this. Once again, this find came from NCS on More Cowbell. She's pretty much the funniest blogger on teh Internets. She even loves Al Gore, who (after all) is the father of teh Internets.

Sick

Growing up, it seemed like one of the old standby gifts from dear old Saint Nick was a case of the flu. Often enough, I would either be horizontal in bed or all shaky and weak on Christmas morning from becoming best friends with our throw up pan.

(Tangent)
Warning: I just skimmed back through this and almost felt the need for the pan I'm describing. This isn't for those with weak stomachs.

We had a designated throw up pan. Everyone I tell about it gets this gross look on their face, and I figure they think my family is crazy. As a result, I usually "forget" to tell them that this pan was one of the most sought after items when my parents downsized and relocated. My sister managed to get it first, and I'm sure most of my siblings were disappointed. It was the perfect pan for the following reasons:

1. It was all dented, so it would never have worked for cooking. As a result, it stood out, and we never accidentally used it to cook edible food in.
2. It was the perfect width. Some of the smaller pots really force the sickie to aim, something they can't always do really well.
3. It was the perfect depth. It wasn't a giant stew pot, but it was deep enough to hold all the necessities. It also meant it could easily be cleaned out in the sink in between sessions.
4. It didn't have a huge handle that would gouge you as you tried to sleep. I usually kept this thing tucked under my arm, and it worked just fine because it had two tiny little nubs that allowed for maximum grip and stability without having to deal with a huge handle.
(End Tangent)

I would as often as not be on a regimen of Sprite and Saltines, which to this day remind me of being sick.

The reason I'm writing all of this is that I think I'm getting sick a little early this year. The weird part is that I don't have a sore throat/headache/stomach ache or any of the other dreaded symptoms. Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling exhausted, and not just the normal exhaustion that comes with knowing you have a full work week ahead of you. Buttoning up my shirt left me winded.

The best way I've found to describe it is that it feels like someone has turned up the gravity. My whole body feels heavy, and I feel like I suddenly weigh enough that my chair is in danger of flattening underneath me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mandles

I don't have many man cards to begin with. I'm a toothpick, I have a high voice, and I don't like football. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to get a few of these.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tacky Christmas

You have two assignments:

1. Go here and read the article.

2. Go here and build the list of tacky light displays in your area.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dreams Revisited

So, from yesterday's post, you know how boring my dreams are. Now it's time to talk about my wife's dreams. Needless to say, I'm jealous.

She regularly wakes up in the morning to tell me how she had to fight off a bunch of vampires/zombies/insurance salesmen and had to protect her sister or me or our daughter from being captured by the offending party.

Every once in a while, the universe throws her a curve ball and she has a normal dream. However, often enough, these dreams involve me doing something stupid, and they are vivid enough that she wakes up a little mad at me for whatever it was I did. At this point, I typically say, "I WOULD say I'll never do it again, but I don't think I can make that promise."

And, I'm glad I didn't, because inevitably I repeat the offense in her dream world.

Luckily, she forgives me anyway and I don't end up here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dreams

I need a dream interpreter. Whenever people talk about their dreams, it always involves something wacky or surreal.

If other people's dreams are Jim Carrey, then my dreams are Ben Stein. Usually I can't even remember mine, but when I do, it is always about something mundane, like vacuuming or cutting my toenails.

In high school, this was a real problem because I was a morning person and liked to get up early to finish my homework rather than stay up all night trying to work with a sleepy brain. Inevitably, I would have a vivid dream about finishing the homework and wake up the next day confused as to why my alarm was set so early. Then, I'd get to school, open up my binder and realize my homework was only half done. Try explaining THAT to a teacher. It's even worse than, "My dog ate it."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Disaster Area



Embarrassing confession time. Growing up, I had the messiest room of anyone I knew. It was a normal day if you couldn't see the carpet. In fact, it was a normal day if you still couldn't see the floor even after excavating a layer of clothes and toys.

Because it wasn't just soft clothes, walking through my room was like walking through a mine field. The unwary traveler could end up with a stubbed toe or an unfortunate face plant.

This lasted all the way through high school and was a constant battle between my parents and me. Despite their best efforts, my room stayed a disaster area. I vividly remember many times my mom said I couldn't go play until my room was clean. Rather than just cleaning it up, though, I found the most interesting places to stuff all the junk without actually having to put it away. I don't know if this was just my act of defiance or if I really thought this was saving time and energy, but it meant I could never find anything later.

Then, a miracle happened. I went to college.

A few weeks after moving into the dorms, I realized with a shock that my side of the dorm room was spotless. My bed was always made, and everything was put away as soon as I was done with it. I was baffled. What caused such a complete transformation?

After thinking about it for entirely too long, I realized that my room at home was used for sleeping and dressing. Any other activity was done in another part of the house. I never actually lived in my room, so it was more like a storage closet. As soon as I moved into the dorms, that 3 foot by 5 foot space was the only place I had to live. Suddenly, my OCD tendencies began to apply to my room, and I was finally clean.

I think my mom was grateful she didn't have a total slob for a son after all, but I'm sure she wished I had figured this out several years earlier.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I'm No Richard Simmons

I think I'm stuck in a time warp. I've been the same weight since high school, and as you may have read, that weight is significantly lower than it should be.



A couple years ago, I decided I'd finally give this "exercise" thing a try. I bought a couple resistance bands and a set of DVDs that offered both strength training and cardiovascular exercise and made a few goals. That was exhausting enough, but I thought I'd still give it a try. I worked out six days a week for two months straight. Here are the results:

Significant muscle soreness
Had to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning
More energy
MUCH bigger appetite (eating almost constantly)
Not winded after a flight of stairs

But here's the kicker ...

Absolutely NO physical change whatsoever.

I was exactly the same as when I started. Still at my same weight, I had a thought.

Yeah, I felt better, but in looking at the pros and cons, feeling a little bit better didn't compensate enough for the effort of getting up every morning at 5 a.m. and feeling like crap while trying to stretch those resistance bands over my head. I know I should have a better attitude about it, but right now it feels pretty nice to sleep in for that extra hour.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'll do that later ...

In college, I worked for a center that, among other services, provided skill building workshops for students. Before I could teach these myself, I had to attend each one. I probably had one of the biggest epiphanies of my life during the "Overcoming Procrastination" workshop.

I attended knowing I procrastinate and I figured I wouldn't learn much, other than a confirmation of what I already knew. As the instructor went through the outline, she described the various forms our procrastination takes when it manifests. She started going through the list, and after each one, I thought, "Yep, that's me ... yep, that's me too ... yep, that's me again."

Pretty soon, I noticed a disturbing pattern. Could I really have every single form of procrastination?

Sure enough, every single one applied to me. I knew I put things off, but I never thought to consider what I did to replace what I should be doing. I realized that the first step to overcoming it is to understand how it affects my own behavior. It was in this class that I realized that whenever I had a test or a major project, I would replace doing it with other good projects. As a result, the apartment would be spotless. The dishes would be done, the floor vacuumed, the dusting done ...

After that, every time I sat down to study and realized I needed to clean the toilets, I would stop myself and plan to do it later. It worked great.

I still procrastinate like crazy, but at least I'm a little more aware that I'm doing it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Best Christmas Ever

My mom takes the cake for coolest moms. Sorry to all the runner ups. You just didn't cut it. Bear in mind, she's the one who had to listen to me talk ALL DAY. She's the one who had to deal with me when I did nerdy stuff that should have embarrassed me and probably embarrassed her. She's the one who also thought of the coolest Christmas gift I've ever received.

One year, I woke up to find a special surprise hung up with my stocking. It looked like a necklace with a bunch of bells on it.

At first I was confused, but then my mom pointed me to the note Santa left behind. In the letter, Santa said I had been such a good boy this year that he decided to give me something extra special.

He told me that the necklace was actually the bells from around Rudolph's neck. I couldn't believe it. I wore them everywhere I went for the rest of the break. I think I even wore them to school. To really appreciate how annoying this must have been for everyone else, you need to hear how loud the big bell is in the middle.

It's like a fog horn.

Editor's Note: This is the ACTUAL picture of Rudolph's Bells (Please don't die of shock that I actually remembered to take a real picture)



Anyway, I still have them, and I love remembering how I felt when I got them.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"How To" Article of the Week

This week's article: How to Cook Food in a Hotel Room

This is all about cooking several meals using only a coffee maker and an iron.

I think someone had way too much time on their hands to think of this stuff, but I'm sure it would work in a pinch. If anyone decides to try it, let me know how it goes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

9th Grade English

As a follow up to yesterday's post, I thought I'd tell you about my 9th grade English teacher. Coincidentally, she is also the advisor for Academic Decathlon.

If I had to pick one teacher that influenced me the most in high school, it would be her because she is the one who got me excited about reading again.

(Tangent)
I loved reading when I was little. I would read all kinds of books, and we had bookshelves of them to choose from. For some reason, I just stopped reading in my early teenage years. I can't remember a specific experience that caused it, but I just never did it anymore.
(End Tangent)



During the year, we had several required books to read, but in between, she had several extra book report assignments. She did something that I thought was pretty ingenious for kids like me. She let us pick any book as long as it had a minimum of XXX pages. Any book. The freedom was exhilarating (remember the nerd comments in previous posts). Even better, we didn't have to write anything about the book. All we had to do is sit down with her, and she would open the book to random spots in the story and start reading. As soon as we knew where she was, we would stop her and explain what was going on in the story. If we could adequately explain, she would pass us off.

All of the sudden, I remembered how much fun reading was and I've been hooked ever since. I rarely go to bed without reading a chapter first.

I'll always be grateful to her for reminding me that books won't kill you.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Academic Decathlon

By now, you know I'm a nerd. I just don't know if you've figured out how epically nerdy I am.

If there was a nerd club, I'd be the president ... no, the emperor.

In high school, I was in a club called Academic Decathlon.



This is basically a club where kids stay after school and study 10 topics for a competition that goes all the way to the national level. Members of the team are tested, and the highest scoring teams move up to state and then national competitions.

Yup, you read that right. I stayed after school for a studying club. Granted, I was only on the support team, meaning I helped the team members instead of joining the team, but it's still geeky.

That said, this was the funnest part of high school. In general, the only worthwhile memories I have are those with my friends, but this one part was actually fun. We even went to state one year, which is a pretty big accomplishment because the competition is pretty intense in California.

At some point, I'll have to share some stories from this period, but for now, I figure the first step is just to acknowledge that they exist.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Zits

The other day, I totally grossed out some of my coworkers. We were talking about zits (I know, thrilling conversation, right?), and I mentioned that I never really got any on my forehead, nose or cheeks. Mine were all centered around my mouth. It was then that I dropped the phrase that made them all dry heave ...

I said it was like I had a goatee of zits.

Great mental image, right?

Unfortunately, I still get a few stubborn ones that show up every once in a while. I like to think this is just my way of hanging onto my youth. I guess I never specified which part I wanted to hang onto.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

To all the kids out there

When your mom takes you shopping for new school clothes, don't insist on wearing them home. As cool as you may think that psychedelic shirt and plum colored shorts are, just leave them in the bag.

Also, when you get home, don't immediately go running outside to play with your friend. If one of you gets the brilliant idea to make a giant mud puddle with the hose, be the older person and walk away.

And whatever you do ... don't plaster a mud pie directly on the front of your shirt. The stain won't fully come out and you'll ruin your school clothes.

Note: the kid in the picture is not me, but this is pretty much exactly what I looked like that fateful day.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Random Trivia: Inukshuk

During my time in Canada, I learned about a stack of rocks called an inukshuk (plural: inuksuit).



Now, I'm not an expert by any means, but these babies are supposedly placed along trails to guide travelers to food, water or shelter. They acted as a reference point for hunting grounds, etc.

The first time I noticed them was while driving through Ontario. Every once in a while, I'd see a stack of rocks on the side of the road. It turns out that some people still carry on the tradition by building them by the highways.

Granted, it's not that hard to get lost on Highway 1 in Canada, and you can bet that a paved road will lead somewhere. Still, I thought it was an interesting tradition.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Music

I love Christmas music. I know people get annoyed when Christmas music starts playing before Thanksgiving, but I've decided it really isn't a big deal. I can still get excited about Thanksgiving while hearing Jingle Bells piped in through a store's sound system, and the other day, this is what I said to my wife:

"I don't think I have a problem with Christmas starting early. I am just fine eating turkey in one room with the Christmas tree in the other."

To me the two holidays blend together because one is about gratitude and the other is about the birth of the Savior.

My point is, it's not a big deal to me. I'll even secretly listen to Christmas music in July. Last year, we bought Sarah McLachlan's Christmas album, and it was March before I could bring myself to stop listening to it. There are a couple of songs I REALLY like (Don't mind the videos. I guess the guy who posted these just had a bunch of random pictures of Sarah McLachlan).

This one is a variation on "What Child is This" and I think I like it even more than the original:



This one took me a minute to get used to, but it grew on me and now I can't stop listening to it (again, it's a variation, and you'll have to hang on for a minute for the beat to kick in):



Any other holiday favorites?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"How To" Article of the Week

This week's article: How to Give a Back Massage

I've included this one because of the massive FAIL all back massages have been on me. It probably doesn't work too well when the only massage-able meat is the square inch between my shoulder blades and my neck or the five inches below my rib cage.

I used to get spasms in my back all the time in high school. My mom had a percussive massager (like the picture below) with two rubber heads that would pound away at the muscle until it relented. It always worked okay on my lower back, but as soon as she ventured up on my rib cage, that thing started bucking like a wild bull. All those bones so close to the surface made it impossible for it to do its job.

Doesn't he look happy to be here? Maybe it's because he has a tad more muscle for the massager to work with.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Fire and the Garden Hose

In Southern California, I grew up in a house across from a vacant hillside, and my friend and I made it our default playground.

One day during the summer, we were playing downstairs and heard my mom yell for us to come upstairs. She said there was a fire on the hill across the street and then opened the door.



I still remember the blast of heat that hit me when that front door opened. Immediately, my mom went to work with the other moms on the street, dragging their garden hoses over to the hill and spraying the fire. Pretty soon, fire trucks arrived and blocked off our little street.

The fire didn't get across the street, and the firefighters were able to put it out, but it was scary to watch everything turn black so close to our house. When it was over, our local news station interviewed my friend's mom. Of course, my friend and I would not be out done. We stood in the window in her house (which was the background for the interview) and jumped up and down constantly waving our arms. In the newscast, you could see a couple silhouettes making fools of themselves in the background while this mom talked about how she felt like she nearly lost her house.

Classy. I have about as much tact now as I did then.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Finger of Scorn

Disclaimer: Mormon oriented post.

A few years ago, my brother was reading the scriptures with his family. They were in the chapter about Lehi's dream of the Tree of Life in the Book of Mormon.



His oldest son (who was around 6 years old at the time) read the following verse:

1 Nephi 8:33
And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.

When he finished, he turned to his dad and, while holding up his middle finger, asked, "Hey Dad, is this the finger of scorn?"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My First Piano Lesson



My first piano teacher scared me to death, and it all started with my first lesson. When I got to my teacher's house, I wanted to make a good first impression.

As we sat down in front of the piano, she said, "Play something you already know."

Immediately, my mind began racing, trying to think of what song would impress her most. Should I wow her with "Mary Had a Little Lamb?" Would she rather hear "Hot Crossed Buns" or should I just pick that song where you make a fist and play only on the black keys?

Finally, I settled on "Chopsticks" because it required both hands. So, I stuck out my index fingers on each hand and placed them on the starting notes. Before I could start playing, a hand flew into my vision and slapped my fingers. At the same time, I heard my piano teacher say, "No! You should always play with ALL your fingers on the keys!"

Ironically, I really liked her as my piano teacher. She motivated me like none other to practice and try to get better. Maybe it was because I was always worried the next step would be to get out the whip.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The "ME" Show

My wife and I attend a church where no one will fess up to having musical talent. Our first Sunday, we sat in the third row, and when we started singing the first hymn, we seriously thought the rest of the congregation decided to sneak out and leave us singing by ourselves. When I turned around, I saw all the seats still full and no one singing.

Every year, we have a Christmas program. It usually involves dinner and a few musical numbers. As you can guess, music options are a little sparce. Someone found out my wife and I can sing (although my wife is MUCH better than I am) and that we can't say no.

Last year, either one or both of us were involved in every single song. This year is the same story (except for one song that will be performed by all the kids). Our main concern is that people are going to think we volunteered for this. I think I would rather watch every episode of Barney the dinosaur or deal with the flu every day in the month of December than sing this much in public.

Thankfully, I married a girl who oozes musical talent. As a result, she can cover me up pretty well and no one will listen to me too closely. I also have to keep reminding myself that everyone listening is just grateful it's not them up on stage.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ma'am

This is a note to all telemarketers.



If you're calling a home (particularly if it's for the 47th time), and the person answering says their name is Nathan, don't assume they are lying to you. Don't assume their parents were cruel for giving a girl a boy's name. If someone says their name is Nathan, they're probably a guy, even though everything in you says the voice on the other end of the line sounds just like a woman who's had one too many cigarettes.

Here's another tip. If you're ever presented with this strange situation, DON'T fall back on your telemarketer training and try to be polite. Calling this person "Ma'am" won't improve your chances of a sale. You'll also join the ranks of other telemarketers who alienate themselves, and you'll only make this person feel even more self conscious about the fact that he is still waiting for his voice to change.

***The situations in the preceding story may or may not be based on real events. The names also may or may not have been changed to protect the innocent.***

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Do you need a tissue?

Let me get one thing straight. I can't act. I've never said I could. I can't even lie effectively. It's pathetic. I'll try to fool someone, and before I can even get the first sentence out, I hear me interrupting myself saying, "Just kidding, just kidding." That said, I'm going to talk about one of the hardest things (in my opinion) for an actor to do ... effective crying.

Usually when an actor has to be sad on the screen, they look more like they've sucked on a sour lemon. I'm not talking about mad crying. Usually a bunch of frustrated arm gestures helps make it a little more convincing. I'm talking about the sad crying, where someone is supposed to hold real still and let a tear run down their cheek and get a little lip quiver.

Since I watch entirely too many movies, I've seen a few actors who, to me, are good cryers. They do a great job at making me want to reach through the TV and ask them, "Do you want a tissue?"

Here's my list so far (in no particular order):

Jim Caviezel - High Crimes



Jensen Ackles - Supernatural (TV) (new addition that honestly surprised me)


Does anyone want to add one?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"How To" Article of the Week

Article for this week: How to Open a Difficult Jar

When I was little, I thought my mom was He-man. She could open anything. I always hoped I could be like her when I grew up.

Fast forward a few years ...

It's a lesson in comedy to watch me try to open a jar. Have you ever seen Mr. Burns on the Simpsons?

(Tangent)
Mr. Burns was one of my nicknames in high school. It bounced back and forth between Mr. Burns (due to my uncanny stick-like resemblance) and Ned Flanders (because I was such a goodie-two-shoes).
(End Tangent)

I love the two scenes when Mr. Burns tries to throw a bowling ball and when he tries to give Smithers "the thrashing of a lifetime." If I could have found a link, I would have posted it so you could see. That is exactly what it looks like when I try to open a jar.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winter = FAIL

Is it bad that I'm already done with winter? The leaves have fallen off the trees, there's frost on the ground in the morning and we've had to turn the heater on. All of these signs point to the impending doom of winter.


One of the worst parts is the snow. Snow is cool for about 2 minutes if you're inside and it's falling down outside. Once you have to go out in it, shovel it or watch it turn gray then black on the side of the road, it loses all it's charm for me.


I thought that exposure to it would at least get me used to it and help me give in. It hasn't. I'll just have to buckle down for the long haul and keep looking at pictures like this:


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Slurpees in the Arctic

Did you know that the intersection in the center of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (Portage and Main) is supposedly the coldest intersection in North America?

I was there for a couple winters, and that place is COLD. They attribute the sharply decreased temperature to the way the buildings funnel the winds through downtown. When it’s cold, it feels like the wind is going to rip the top layer of skin off your face. There are flags placed all around the intersection, and I kid you not, the flags are usually whipping at full force in completely different directions. Winds come howling though there from every direction and converge at that intersection. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it.

Did you also know that Winnipeg is the Slurpee capital of the world?

They even have bumper stickers declaring it, so it must be true, right? That was the other thing that baffled me. It was typical to see people bundled up like that kid in "A Christmas Story" (LOVE this movie), waiting for the bus, sucking on a Slurpee.

My apologies for those who hate talking about Christmas before Thanksgiving, but bringing up "A Christmas Story" did me in. I just had to post the trailer.

Forgive me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Freak of Nature

This post was inspired by an arm hair split end ...

I'm a freak of nature. I wish I could say this because I have some kind of special mind powers or super strength or even the ability to commit (although, my wife says I already have this one down, so maybe I should add it to my list).

But, should I tell you what it is? I mean ... some day, I might need my secret identity, and here I've already blown it. I guess since no one reads this thing anyway it's no big deal, right?

So get ready to be BLOWN A-WAY ...

... (drum roll) ...

The middle finger on my right hand is about an eighth of an inch longer than the middle finger on my left hand. Even cooler, my toes match (right middle is longer than left middle).

The problem is, I don't know if I can hack it. The pressure of having a gift like this is just too great sometimes. I don't want to squander my abilities for myself. I'm thinking of the greater good. So far, nothing else has manifested, but I'm holding out for the ability to fly or bulletproof skin. I'll keep you posted.


This brings me to my dilemma. I've racked my brain looking for good crime fighting applications of this gift, and the only thing I've come up with is that I can use my "extension" to really get noticed if I want to flip off a guy robbing a bank or stealing a candy bar from the store. (Clarification to the mother who raised me to be a good boy: Mom, you taught me to never flip people off, and I'm happy to say I never have. This is just in theory ...)

So, until my other powers arrive, I'm pretty much stumped. However, if anyone needs an extra long middle finger, you know where to find me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mr. Fix It

I've never claimed to be a handyman. I can hammer a nail into a wall, but that's about it. Anything beyond that gets a little dicey, and I'd probably end up doing more harm than good.

Since I can't convince our house to stop falling apart, I've had to try my best to fix things I normally wouldn't feel comfortable touching. On top of that, there are two things that freak me out in home improvement projects. Electricity and water. Electricity because it's invisible and can kill you. Water because it's amazing how much property damage it can do.

Is there a name for home-repair-phobia? If so, I think I have it.

Still, I've had to face my fears, and I've even run up a nice little list of successful projects:
  • Leaky pipe under the sink
  • Faulty electrical outlet
  • Measuring and installing blinds
  • Wiring for high-speed Internet
  • Furniture assembly
  • Demolition (not nearly as fun as it sounds) - carpet and linoleum removal

Thanks to these semi-successful projects, I no longer get cold sweats when I walk into Home Depot or have nightmares about drill bits and screwdrivers.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cavities

It's pretty much guaranteed that I will almost singlehandedly finance my dentist's children when they go to college. I've never gone to an appointment when he hasn't found a cavity. Last time, I had to have four filled. In addition, two were too small for him to do anything with, so he wanted to wait and see if they grew any before my next appointment. For those whizzes out there who can't handle a little addition (like me) that's a total of six. SIX cavities. I brush twice a day and floss once a day.

When my wife and I got out of our appointments, she made the following comment:

"Man, I like going to the dentist. He looked at my teeth and said, 'Wow, you have perfect teeth.' It's nice to get a little ego boost."

It was then I got to tell her about my six new friends taking up residence in my mouth. Needless to say, I REALLY hope my daughter gets my wife's teeth.



(Tangent)
I've always been proud of myself that I haven't ever had a procedure at the dentist's office that required Novocaine. During college, I was bad and didn't go to the dentist like I should have. After I graduated, I went and found out I had a couple cavities (surprise, surprise). When he started to fill them, I was surprised when he suddenly came at me with a needle. I let him do what he had to, all the while coming to grips with the fact that my streak was over. Then he started drilling. I didn't feel a thing. It was amazing, and it was only then when I realized something about my childhood dentist. I don't think he believed in Novocaine because I had a vivid flashback to the dentist's chair growing up. I remember feeling the burning pain of the drill in my mouth as I tried not to move. I remember being afraid that if I jumped or jolted, that drill would slip and go through my lip or something. Instead, I held as still as possible, and gripped the armrests with all my might.

Now, I know what I was missing.
(End Tangent)

Oddly enough, I don't mind going to the dentist. Maybe I'm just resigned to the continual relationship I have with the drill.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Favorite Childhood Book


When I was little, my favorite book was "The Giving Tree." I loved reading how the tree was willing to give everything she had to the boy, even if it would take him away from her. Each time, the boy never said thank you and never really acknowledged the gift, but in spite of that, the tree was always happy. It reminded me that if I was going to be nice to people, I shouldn't expect anything in return. I should just be nice because I want to.

I even had my very own giving tree in my backyard. It was a huge pine tree that had tilted so far over that you could walk up the trunk. About 6 feet off the ground, a huge section grew out of the side to balance it out. Looking at it from far away, it looked like a giant Y. I used to climb up that tree all the time and sit alone in the branches. I loved having a special place all to myself.

At one point, my parents had to have the tree cut down because it was bending closer and closer to our shed. I still remember watching the chainsaws cut off big chunks of the trunk. It was unusually sad for me to watch that childhood refuge disappear.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"How To" Article of the Week

This week: How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci

I thought I'd follow it up with a few tips on how to think like me:
  1. Humor: Assume everyone automatically thinks you're funny. This will improve your confidence and help with your denial when crickets accompany the punchlines of most of your jokes.
  2. Naivety: While being naive makes you the butt of many jokes, it helps in managing people's expectations of you. They'll always be disproportionately impressed with some minor thing you've accomplished.
  3. Frown Lines vs. Smile Lines: We will all get wrinkles. It's inevitable. When I was younger, I thought I would rather have crinkles around my eyes rather than a perma-scowl, so I decided I would try to smile a lot. Don't laugh. This thought, along with many, many others passed through my head at some point during childhood.
  4. Rain: Everything is better when it rains. My first day back from vacation, it rained all day. Over all, it was a good day, and I attribute that to the rain. I know. I'm weird. Either that or I'm permanently starved for moisture from growing up in a desert.
  5. Teasing Yourself: It is much less embarrassing to tell a joke about yourself than having someone else spill the beans on something stupid you've done. I always try to get out there first so I can be the one to tell the story.

I suppose I could go on, but I'll spare you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

SA-CURITY

I'm stealing this video from Hannah. It's hilarious, and I end up watching it about twice a week.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Baggy Sacks

Warning to the pure and innocent: Irreverent story (even though it's hilarious).

So, this story is only good if you can see the hand gestures that go with it. Since that isn't possible, you're just goin to have to make due.

My sister has two boys. She often talks about how her body isn't quite the way it used to be, and is a little sad about the changes that have occurred. For the record, she looks great and shouldn't feel this way.

One day, she was in her room, and her son came in. He made the following gesture and then asked the question below.



Cup both hands like you would if you were begging for change or holding a little bit of water. Hold both hands in front of your chest, palms up and fingers pointing together (like you're cupping something that is definitely NOT water). See where this is going? Now with a quick jerk, move your hands down and up simultaneously. Now, when you see this symbol ($) in the question he asked, that stands for the above gesture (wow, this is even harder to explain than I thought).

Here is what he asked his mom:

"Mom, why do you have ($) baggy ($) sacks?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Astronomy Class



My freshman year of college, my friend and I took an astronomy class. We thought it would be cool and didn't think it would be too tough. We didn't count on a professor from the stone age. We also didn't count on the fact that every other student in the class was either an astronomy major or took astronomy classes in the past.

This particular teacher mumbled everything he said, and rather than using the chalkboard or a PowerPoint presentation, he insisted on using the same overhead slides he used back in the 70s. These suckers were all chipped and yellow and the handwriting on them was almost illegible. Combine that with the fact that he kept switching them at lightning speeds, and you can see why we did so poorly. To clarify, I'm not blaming my teacher for my failure. I understand that I could have applied myself and done better, but I didn't, and all of these factors compounded the situation.

So, long story short, at the end of the semester, my friend and I had the most solid of solid Ds. She and I calculated our grades and realized that if we aced the final, we would still have a D. If we bombed the final, we would still have a D. So, we decided not to stress over it and didn't study at all for the test.

To celebrate the impending doom of finals week, a bunch of us went out to eat and one of those cool restaurants where you gorge yourself on the slabs of meat they bring to your table. The next day, both my friend and I succumbed to food poisoning. I, being the wimp that I was, recovered much slower than my friend, but we still missed the astronomy final. I was busy staying home, trying desperately to keep the saltine crackers and sprite from reappearing for an encore (if you catch my drift).

And wouldn't you know it. I somehow overlooked the fine print that said if you don't show up for the final, you drop a letter grade. I had never failed a class before. I had never gotten a D before. I nearly fainted when I opened up my report card from that semester.

The only good thing that came out of this experience was the giant trash bag my friend brought me. She told everyone I was sick and had everyone in the dining hall sign this thing, explaining it was going to be my new vomit bag. That night, I got a giant bag with a bunch of signatures, some of whom I knew, and many of which I didn't.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beach Camping and the Sunburn

Every year, my sister goes beach camping with a big group of people. Getting a camp site is a whole story in and of itself because they have to call the reservation number the morning it opens over and over until they get someone. Then they have to take whatever day is still available because the entire season fills up within hours.

One year when I was still in college, I got to go down and participate. It was the best camping I've ever done, including all the camping I did as a Scout.

I was exhausted from studying and tests and didn't feel much like getting in the ocean, so I just brought a book to read. I sat under an umbrella and got to be lazy without any guilt. Is there anything better?

The problem came on the last day when I didn't notice the sun shifting overhead and ended up with my legs in the sun for most of the afternoon. By the time I noticed, it was too late. The next day, they swelled up and got all red. I thought I was going to have to amputate. By the end of the week, they had turned purple. I'm not kidding you. They were dark purple. I'm amazed they didn't blister or something. It's probably a medical miracle. I just wish I had a picture of them to post as well. It was really creepy to have pasty white arms and plum colored legs.

True to my genetic heritage, once the purple was gone, they immediately returned to their translucent white. After all that, I didn't even get the benefit of a nice tan.

Monday, November 10, 2008

First Kiss

When I was a younger, I had this romantic notion that I would wait to kiss a girl until I knew she was the one I wanted to marry. I know, I know ... lame. I didn't go all crazy and limit myself to kissing her on our wedding day, but for many people, I'm sure this is crazy enough. Well, the romanticism of this idea COMPLETELY backfired.

(Tangent)
You know those newlywed games that ask couples questions about each other? One question my wife and I heard once was, "In one word, how would you describe your first kiss?" My wife and I immediately turned to each other and simultaneously said, "Awkward!"
(End Tangent)

It was Valentine's Day. We had gone to the speed skating rink that was built during the Olympics in Salt Lake City. My girlfriend (now my wife) didn't really know how to skate, so I'm sure this wasn't the best outing for her. Still, I enjoyed it because she had to cling to me the whole time to keep from falling. At the end of the evening, I walked her to her door, and knew I needed to take the plunge. Thanks to my years of kissing virginity, I felt like a member of the high school chess club with D&D dice in my pocket trying to hit on the head cheerleader.

I don't know what I looked like, but I'm sure the shot of my face would have won me a boat load of money on America's Funniest Home Videos. Not knowing how to make my move, I asked if I could kiss her. That's right. I asked her. Does it get any more lame than that? After a mumbled "Ok," I went for it.

And, the deed was done. I don't know if she knew about my policy, but I knew she was the one for me. Thankfully, she forgave me for that hideous lip lock. And I suppose it is a minor consolation prize that I can say I've never kissed another girl (other than my mother).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Vacations

So, you might not know it, but I've been gone for a week on vacation. To help keep the momentum, I was a writing fiend, and scheduled a bunch of posts while I was gone. What I didn't count on was the funk after getting back. I don't know what to write. Mostly, I'm just nervous about the pile of emails I'll have waiting for me tomorrow at work. I'm anticipating a pretty rotten day tomorrow, so we'll see how it goes.


So, not that you're interested, but we went to California. My daughter doesn't ever stop moving (even when she's asleep) so you can imagine how fun the car ride was there and back.

Still, we got some great family time together, and my coworkers were nice enough to cover for me, so I only got three phone calls with minor questions.

Hopefully, I'll get back in to the swing of things tomorrow and I'll have more random stories to post.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"How To" Article of the Week

Here's a fun one: How to Dilate or Shrink Your Pupils on Command.



When I saw this, I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to know how to do this. It reminded me of Dwight on The Office talking about his cholesterol.

Dwight: Through concentration, I can raise and lower my cholesterol at will.
Pam: Why would you wanna raise your cholesterol?
Dwight: So I can lower it.

That's how pointless I thought this was. However, I've apparently been missing out on a whole world of body language. I guess our pupils are supposed to say a bunch about how we feel about the person we're talking to.

Me? I've never noticed what someone's pupils have done during a conversation. Am I going to worry about it? Nope.

I think people would be completely creeped out by the fact that I'm staring intensely at their eyes to gauge the size of their pupils. That's just me ...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chatty Cathy

I talk a lot. A LOT. (And you're probably thinking, "Thanks, Captain Obvious!")

One of my siblings' favorite stories to tell about my childhood is when we went to pick my brother up from college one summer. Being the youngest of 9 kids, my oldest brother was out of the house by the time I was born, and we scheduled a family trip to go get him from school. Having had no real quality one-on-one time with me in the past, he mistakenly took the seat next to me for the trip home. I can only assume he thought I would spend most of my time coloring or taking a nap.

What he didn't realize is that I had somehow developed the rare ability to intake air without having to stop the flow of words that spewed non-stop out of my mouth. For the next twelve hours, I chattered away at him. I don't remember what I said, and I don't remember anything out of the ordinary, but when we finally arrived and he stumbled out of the car, dazed and confused, my family realized what had happened.

They apologized for neglecting to tell him a sanity preservation measure they had learned. Evidently, I didn't care whether or not anyone engaged in the conversation with me. I seemed oblivious whether or not the person I was talking to inserted the right number of "ohs" and "ums" and "oks" in the right places. Consequently, my family discovered they could completely ignore me and even play music on their walkman without me noticing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Favorite Movie

Do you ever have people ask you what your favorite [insert random thing here]?

Usually, I'm baffled because it all depends on my mood, the person I'm talking to, and the phases of the moon, but I think I can safely say I have a favorite movie ... at least for the moment.

I think I like this one even better because no one I talk to has ever heard of it. It's called "Noises Off" and it's hilarious!

It was released in 1992, and has a great cast: Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, Marilu Henner, Nicollette Sheridan, etc.

John Ritter has a mouth in this thing, so it may not be for the most sensitive of ears. The trailer looks like it's all slapstick, and while it is a large part of the show, there is a lot more to it.



Watch the movie. Now.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Flocked Pine Cone

Disclaimer: While I love this story, it's not one of the many embarrassing moments I typically share on this site. Have no fear. I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories you can read later and laugh at my expense.
I have this flocked pine cone on my desk. I'm sure my coworkers wonder why I have a Christmas decoration that has obviously seen better days sitting in a prominent place next to my computer screen.

I've kept this thing through the years because I learned an important lesson back when I got it in kindergarten.

(Disclaimer: This is not the actual pine cone. I'm lazy and didn't bring the pine cone home from work to get a real picture)

Here's the story:

Before the Christmas break, my kindergarten teacher went on vacation. When she came back, she brought a bunch of pine cones she collected during her camping trip. She announced that she would like to give them to us one by one, and asked that we get in line.

Predictably, anytime there is free stuff, no matter how senseless, any group of kids quickly becomes a volatile mob. In a brief moment of clarity, I thought, "Nathan, you don't need to be first. How about you let the others get in line before you?"

As a result, I was literally the last student in line. When it was finally my turn, and everyone else was busy comparing the ones they got, trying to see whose was the biggest/best, my teacher reached into her bag and got a panicked look on her face. She realized she had accidentally miscounted and didn't have any left. She looked devastated, so I told her it was no big deal. It was a little sad for me because I really was looking forward to getting mine. After all, I was one of those kids who can so quickly turn into a mob. I went back to my seat, and didn't notice when my teacher slipped out of the room while her aides took over the lesson.

A few minutes later, she returned, and announced her mistake to the class. She then said the other kindergarten teacher in the school was handing out pine cones as well and happened to have one extra. She then presented me with my pine cone, but the other teacher had taken the time to flock hers so it looked like it had snow on it. All of the other kids noticed the difference and seemed a little disappointed that they had pushed ahead of me in line.

Oddly, this was a profound teaching moment for me. I learned that being nice is not a sign of weakness and that good things happen to those who are kind. As I've grown and watch people get ahead of the game through deceit and ruthless behavior, I've kept this little pine cone as a reminder that they will get their reward and I will get mine.

In the end, they may have a bigger car and a nicer house, but I'll be able to live with myself and will have a clear conscience. Sometimes the rewards won't look like they match, but not everything can be measured tangibly.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Penalty Box

When kids misbehave, many parents have a time out corner, a time out chair or a time out rug.

We had "The Penalty Box."

If I was being a dork, my parents would put me in the penalty box until I could calm down and behave myself. Needless to say, I spent some real quality time in the penalty box.

I suppose the location could have changed, depending on where the offense occurred, but mine usually ended up at the top of the stairs leading down under the garage. There was a door at the top that my parents could shut so they wouldn't hear me protest how unfair it was that I had to sit there.

Here is the part where I wasn't the brightest crayon in the box (aside from getting put there in the first place). Under the garage, we had a room. This room contained toys, videos, the piano and the TV (although we didn't get any channels ... it was just for movies).

Did I ever think to take a little trip downstairs to play for a while? Nope. I just sat there kicking the door with my feet, yelling until I decided I wanted my freedom again.

Monday, November 3, 2008

If I don't like football, do I owe you a man card?

I don't like football, and believe me, I tried. It seems like it's a right of passage and should be on every adult male's agenda to watch at least one game per week.

But I don't like it. In fact, I don't like watching sports in general on TV. Being at a game is a different story, but watching on my couch has never held much appeal. As a result, I don't follow any teams and sound like an idiot when my friends talk about the finer points of a particular sport.

This wasn't a recent development either. When I was little, my dad would take me to baseball games because he had season tickets. I went for the food. It was almost a religious ritual. I started with a hot dog and a drink. That usually lasted 1 or 2 innings. Then I moved onto a bag of peanuts. Depending on how much I dragged this out, I could really make these last for a while. Then, I finished it all off with a frozen malt.

These seats were in the dugout, so in between stuffing my face, I annoyed the security at the entrance by pretending I had urgent business outside the dugout area. When they first let you in, they stamped your hand with a UV stamp. Then, you had to hold it up under a black light if you ever left the area. I probably made 20 trips out each game. By the end of the evening, the guard would just wave me through, but I insisted on showing him my stamp. It was SO cool to see it appear under the light.

The other indicator that I never liked sports was when I watched TV at home. My dad would come in and ask if he could just get the score. I would grudgingly hand him the remote, and half an hour later, he'd still be sitting there. It's mesmerizing for him, but I just couldn't get into it.

So, there you go. I have to give all of you a man card. My only consolation is that my wife loves my ambivalence of sports.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Daylight Savings

Does anyone still benefit from daylight savings? I've heard all kinds of rumors about farmers and general energy consumption savings, but I can't find any concrete findings. Of course ... I also haven't looked.

Do you ever get excited thinking about the extra hour of sleep you'll get and how much energy you'll have the next day?

Do you ever actually go to bed early enough to benefit from that extra hour?

I never do.

But I have plans for making it up. I'm not a huge New Year's Eve kind of person. I always end up falling asleep, and I've never been a fan of that song everyone sings at midnight. As a result, I plan on pulling one over on my kids when they're old enough to want to stay up but not old enough to do it without making my life miserable the next day.

My sister does this and it's brilliant. On New Year's Eve, she goes around and sets all the clocks forward a couple hours. Then we count down until midnight and all go to bed at 10:30 p.m. It's fantastic, and they never caught on.

Maybe I'm a horrible dad, but I like sleep.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"How To" Article of the Week

Wiki How has some pretty funny "How To" articles on their site. One I recently noticed was an article on:

How to Feign Interest when an Annoying Person Talks to You

My reason for posting this one in particular? I wanted you all to know that I'm onto you. The next time I start talking to you, I'll be watching for these signals. I also figure it might be nice to finally have a method for how to deal with me when I start sharing my lame stories.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Memorable Halloween

I'm the youngest of 9 kids. Did I already say that before?

As a result, I got a lot of hand-me-downs. A LOT. I'm sure that half the shoes I wore in elementary school should have been on a girl's feet.

The same was true for my Halloween costumes. You could always tell what my family members were before me by looking at the progression of costumes. From around 2-4 years old, I was a clown. That costume was horrific. It had this huge ruff (Is that what you call the thing that goes around the neck?) that was SO itchy. I hated wearing it and couldn't wait until I could get it off. The next few years involved the Batman cape my mom made. I was pretty much in love with that one, and tried to figure out how I could wear it the rest of the year without getting beat up at school. After that, I spent several years as the Grim Reaper.

Now, this costume was perfect for creating indelible memories. the robe was big enough, that it could be folded up on itself and tied with a belt around the waist. As a result, I got many more years of use out of that sucker than any of the others. The down side? The fabric for the robe was brown. Combine that with the "no weapons" policy at school, and you've got a perfect recipe for embarrassment. I'll walk you through it.

No scythe (There's your fancy word of the day.)

Brown robe

Rope belt

Yep. Every single kid in my class thought I was a monk for Halloween.

A monk.

Combine this humiliation with the fact that my robe was made of some arctic thermal fabric that was 3 inches thick, and it was like I had my own sweat tent to carry around with me. I'm sure it was only 85-90 degrees that day, but in that thing it felt like I was walking around on the surface of the sun.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I feel old ...

First, a little context. I'm in my 20s. Granted, it's my late 20s, but I'm still there.

Those who are older, are probably exasperated by the title of this post, saying, "If you think you're old now, just wait until you're [insert larger number here]!"

My point is not in the number but in the distance I have now moved from all that is young, hip and cool.

(Tangent)
I was never cool, as you're probably starting to realize from my previous posts. In high school, my only claim to fame was that I looked remarkably like the AP History teacher. Thankfully, he was a popular teacher, but not because he was cool. He was that nerdy, funny guy that everyone laughs at/with (but more at).
(End Tangent)

Not only do I groan involuntarily when I have to heave myself out of a chair, but I realize I'm completely out of touch with my teenage nieces and nephews. All this texting and MP3 players and the return of 80s fashion choices is making my head spin a little bit. If I remember correctly, we all came out of the hairspray fog of the 80s and realized what a mistake everyone made with stirrup pants and shoulder pads when they were exposed to the harsh light of day and the heavy handed critique of common sense.

Now, these things are returning combined with a fresh load of crud I don't understand, and it makes me want to go hide under my bed and hide.

So ... yeah. I feel old. Old and crotchety. Someone had better come by soon to give me my medicine. I don't know if I can read the giant letters on this weekly pill organizer.

... and I may need one of those Life Alert buttons.

(Tangent)
I bet you never thought there could be two of these in one post, did you?

It doesn't help matters that I already have a ton of gray hair. It started in high school and the three I had back then have started breeding like rabbits.

In an odd way, this is actually a good thing. Since I have the face of a 12 year old and 99% of telemarketers call me ma'am (I'm still waiting for my voice to change), at least I'm getting something to put a little age on me.
(End Tangent)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Good Music

Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you I'm a sucker for good music. I'd have a hard time choosing between eating a piece of chocolate cake and listening to a song that is well done and pleasant to listen to.

My wife is nice about this. Rather than calling me out as the nerd I am, she says this is a gift. She is an amazing musician and feels like me (when I listen to music) when she performs a good song. I guess in this we're well matched. She can do all the performing, and I can do all the listening.

This is getting a little sappy, but I guess that is inevitable.

(Tangent)
I've always said that if I could do anything I wanted in life, I would be involved in the music industry. Unfortunately, if I tried to get into that market, I'd probably be on the look out for a cardboard box big enough to fit my family. As a result, this is just my hobby, and it's going to stay that way.
(End Tangent)

So, music is awesome, and sometimes is the only thing to get me through the rough days.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Speeding Ticket

I drive like a grandma. Every once in a while my southern California roots show up and I start swerving through traffic, but for the most part, I pretty much putt along without much drama.

It was 2 a.m. on a cool night in the late fall my freshman year of college. I had to return a video to Blockbuster, and I didn't want to do it the next day, so I hopped in my car and started driving down the street. There was no one around, and I wasn't really paying attention to my speed, when I noticed a car make a U-turn from a parked position on the opposite side of the road and start following me. The car was black and white, and all the blood immediately drained from my face. I had never been pulled over before (I wasn't just making up the grandma reference). I immediately checked my speedometer and it registered at 35 mph. I was in a 25 zone. Sure enough, lights flashed on the roof of the car, and I had to pull over. He hit me with a spotlight and got out of the car. After taking my license and registration, he asked me if I knew how fast I was going.

At this point, I wished I had some reservoire of "getting out of tickets" stories. As it was, I had no idea what to say or how to explain I wasn't a psycho teenager, but was in fact one of the much rarer boring variety ... the kind that spent many evenings playing Skip-Bo with his parents.

(Tangent)
Wow, that sounds lame. It is amazing how normal I feel until I start typing. Now that it's written, it's like I'm shining a bright spotlight on my dull teenage years. Don't get me wrong. I'm fine with them the way they were. I'm just starting to wonder about the wisdom of cluing everyone else in.
(End Tangent)

I don't remember what I told the cop, but it resulted in a $40 ticket, so it can't have been that good. I've never gotten a ticket since, and I haven't even been pulled over, but parts of me feel a little gyped when I hear people talk about how many times they've been pulled over and are still "ticket-free."

Monday, October 27, 2008

First trip to the zoo

When I was little, my brother took me to the zoo for my first time. To this day, I wonder why a high school student would want to be caught in public with his dorky little brother, but for some reason, he decided to take me. Maybe he was building up good will and hoping my mom and dad would let him use the car that weekend.

In any case, I was thrilled to go and wanted to document every part of the day. I had a manual Kodak camera full of film, and I wasn't afraid to use it. All throughout the day, I took pictures of all the exhibits. I probably looked like the biggest goof ball running from cage to cage in my thigh high socks and Cub Scouts baseball cap.

The two days waiting for the pictures to be developed were agony. I had visions of becoming a National Geographic photographer and was sure I got some sweet shots worthy of publishing. As soon as my mom brought them home, I tore open the envelope to see my masterpieces.

What I found was an entirely different story. I had 36 prime shots that looked just like this:



On a rare occasion, I was able to get a shot over the fence. But without a zoom on my cheap-o camera, they turned out something like this:



Yeah ... little did I know I would get a face full of fence. Now all I have are the memories of my first trip to the zoo. That, and a bunch of pictures of the fencing around the habitats.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chinese Food

I LOVE Chinese food. I don't know when this obsession started or how to stop it or whether or not I even want to stop it, but I could eat Chinese food every day. Now ... I suppose I should clarify. I don't know if I like real Chinese food. You know ... the authentic kind. The kind that actually deserves the name "Chinese." All I know is, I love the kind that Americans have branded as Chinese food. The kind that makes Chinese people dry heave when they taste it. I've never said I had high class, and I'm certainly not high class with food.



(Tangent)
My wife and I both know we don't belong in classy joints. We're pretty homespun, and we like it that way. I'm sure people at work think I'm a nerd when I come into work with yet another plaid shirt/khaki combo, but eventually they realize it's not going to change.
(End Tangent)

So, yeah.

Chinese food rules.

I wish I owned a Panda Express.

The End.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Like Father, Like Son


When I was little, I always used to laugh at my dad. Wait ... I should probably qualify that last sentence. I used to laugh at my dad ... when he'd talk about our family vacations. Usually these trips consisted of driving across several states to visit grandparents, but later on, they became other kinds of trips where we stayed in hotels (gasp), went to theme parks, and ate out at restaurants. I would laugh at my dad whenever anyone asked how these trips went. In my mind, the best part of these trips were the rides or the zoo animals or the fact that we actually had cable TV for a couple nights. Inevitably, however, my dad would break into a long discourse about each meal we had. He would describe the consistency of the chips at one restaurant or the flavor of the pasta sauce at another. To the average listener, it sounded like we spent the entire time with a fork in one hand and a napkin tucked under our chin.
Fast forward 15 years.
My company had a retreat a little while ago. We had an amazing weekend where we went golfing (or to the spa if you don't mind someone invading your personal space), hot air ballooning and river rafting. A couple of years ago, we went on another retreat where we received professional golf instruction at PGA West near Palm Springs, California. Both trips were wonderful. When I got home, I was all ready to tell my wife about all the fun I had, and what could I not stop talking about? The food. I went on and on about this delicious fish and how we got to have fresh guacamole made right next to our table by the waiter. About 30 minutes into my monologue, my mouth fell open and I realized I was doing exactly what my dad used to do.
I decided I should probably just embrace it, since it was WAY too late to do anything about the habits I learned from infancy. So if you ever hear me talking about a vacation, be prepared for a healthy chunk of that conversation to be about food.
Speaking of food ... this blog has some pretty cool food ideas (thrown in with a bunch of crafty stuff that I probably couldn't do even if I wanted to. I just don't want to see how many times I can stick my finger with a sewing needle ... not pretty). You should check it out when you have a second: http://projectdomestication.blogspot.com/